Patrick Garry’s many readers know that once they open the cover of one of his novels, they will be taken gently and firmly by the hand and led off on a journey whose itinerary and destination will be revealed in due time. Call it a journey, a plot, a story line—call it what you want—all I know is that when you read his books, you are in the hands of a master story teller.
“Finding Flipper Frank” the latest and seventh of his novels is no exception. The story begins at the Oakdale Nursing Home, in Billings, MT, a dreary, cheerless place where Walt Honerman, a thirty eight year old serial-loser, is there to oversee his uncle’s funeral. Affable, but somewhat aimless in his life style, Walt is a favorite there because of his helpful ways and as one resident put it, because he cared enough to “just be there” on a regular basis.
One thing the nursing home residents know for sure, is that Walt’s late uncle had planned a trip for the two of them to Baltimore, hopefully to see Cal Ripken break the most famous record in baseball, Lou Gehrig’s string of 2130 consecutive games. But even though Walt promised his dying uncle he would go with or without him, such a trip does not appeal to him; therefore, he is not going, and that is that.
But that is not that. For one thing, the nursing home residents assume that Walt is going and are already planning his trip. And for another, there is “Izzy “Donleavy, a seventy six year old loquacious, dreamer who has an urgent need to return to Crawfish Bay, where to hear him tell it, he was a successful hotelier and business man; and Moira Kelley, a young woman who befriended Walt’s uncle in his final days, and needs a ride to her childhood home. All this is too much for Walt, who finally, with many misgivings, decides to make the trip, despite his doubts.
It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely trio to share a three day trip in an aging two-door Ford than the three travelers, but somehow they manage. The conversation is nonstop, save a nap or two during the day, mostly instigated by Izzy about the old days at Crawfish Bay, and the lessons he learned about life—women are always attracted by men in ties, for example—; while Moira, always the patient and sympathetic listener, looks after the care and feeding of the travelers, as Walt clings grimly to the steering wheel, saying as little as possible. By the time the trip is over, three things are evident: 1) Izzy’s stories about his days at Crawfish Bay are mostly delusional; 2) All three are dreamers in their own way; and 3) Walt and Moira are definitely falling in love, although neither is willing to say so.
The plan is that once the travelers arrive in Maryland, the three would go their separate ways. But that doesn’t happen. That’s because Izzy’s stories, though mostly delusional, have a core of credibility, especially because of some incriminating baggage he left behind in Crawfish Bay, along with a few colleagues who are eager for his return to settle old scores. Bonded together in a variety of ways, the three decide to stick together to help Izzy work through his problems, which they eventually do.
But what about the budding romance between Walt and Moira? All that is explained in the last chapter—my favorite in the book. Without revealing the ending, I can only quote what a friend of mine said about a passage from another book; If it “doesn’t make you cry and doesn’t give you goose bumps – you may not have a soul.” My sentiments exactly.
Comments, critiques, criticisms? Patrick Garry has written seven novels to-date. I have read and reviewed four of them and have them on my bookshelf to this day. It’s time for readers to become Patrick Garry fans like me, and “Finding Flipper Frank” would be a good place to start. It’s a winner.
“Finding Flipper Frank” is published by Kenric Publishing; and can be purchased worldwide online at Amazon.
Ron Standerfer is a novelist, freelance writer, book reviewer, and book publisher whose articles have appeared in numerous news publications including online editions of the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and the Honolulu Star Advertiser. He is a member of the International Travel Writers & Photographers Alliance (ITWPA), American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) and the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). He is a retired Air Force fighter pilot who flew 237 combat tours in Vietnam War. His novel, The Eagles Last Flight www.eagleslastflight.com chronicles the life of an Air Force fighter pilot during the Cold War and Vietnam years. He is also the founder and President of The Pelican Communications Group www.pelicancomgroup.com, an independent book publisher specializing in new and emerging authors.